The Meatgrinder and Puke Loop

Two trails, seven years later…

Base Camp area trails
The Puke Loop

Old trails never die, they just get harder to see.

Their names did, and still do, a good job of describing them in a few short words- The Puke Loop and The Meatgrinder. While their heydays of being a few open, flowing pieces of path connecting extended sections of tight turns, rocks, overhanging limbs, short and steep climbs, poorly angled roots, complicated descents, cactus and riding/hiking/trail running bliss have long passed, they can still be mostly followed. More than just a few body scars remain on people to help tell something about what the two were like back in the day and undoubtedly there are those that still think of mountain biking the Puke Loop whenever they find themselves hugging a commode.

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The 24 Hours of Moab

Interesting events late at night during a 24 Hour mountain bike race.

A dirt road via mountain bike
Mountain biking

Things got progressively weirder as the mountain bike race/event known as the 24 Hours of Moab continued. At some point in the middle of the night, two tandem bikes with riders dressed as frogs rode in from a direction that I knew had nothing to do with the race course. During the first lap, I’d been concerned when another racer didn’t correctly yield the trail to me on a long climb, but by the time the frog thing happened, nothing was flustering me. I was just pleased that the creatures stopped and waited at the side of the trail for me to pass before they moved on. For a moment, as I passed and rode on up toward the crest of the hill, I was consumed by the thought that they might have turned onto the same 15 mile long trail that me, and several hundred other riders had been riding loops on for over 12 hours, and consciously hoped that they were going counterclockwise like the rest of us. I reasoned that if they did, in fact, get on the trail, they just might at least have my back. And while that shouldn’t have necessarily given me comfort, it did. Upon coming to that realization, I felt a rush of new energy come into my legs and the rest of that first climb was almost pleasant. I never saw the four pseudo-amphibians again before the race ended the following noon. Even today, ten years later, I do find myself wondering from time to time, how many laps they made, if they did, in fact, make any.

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Lost, but not Forgotten

Where did Garrett go? A misplaced backpacker out in the Wind River Range backcountry.

DSC07056If all went as planned, we’d get to our campsite by late afternoon, which would give us plenty of daylight for setting up the tents, organizing gear and even resting some before cooking supper. Our backpacks were heavy, but being mostly young and fit, by lunch we’d already covered well over half of the 15 miles planned for the day. At just a little after 1 o’clock, we crossed the Roaring Fork and stopped on the other side to change out of our river shoes and eat our midday meal of tuna, crackers and gorp. Among other things, the stop also provided a nice break from the uphill grind we’d been on for several hours.

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Tents on the snow, perhaps above a crevasse
A snow camp.

He was not a big person and since I outweighed him by 60 or so pounds, I was confident that I could hold him, if he were to break through and fall into a crevasse. There was no doubt that the sometimes-bottomless cracks found all over glaciers were running underneath us everywhere, although most were hidden beneath thin layers of the snow and ice of the Ruth Glacier. Probing out the route as we moved was tedious, but imperative—especially during the summer months when things were melting more than freezing. We knew the crevasse field was there, but were hoping to find a relatively safe way through it that could be used as a way up onto the ridge for our whole group.

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Two Mountain Stories

Adventure perspectives.

Ascending a steep mountain ridge.
Practicing ice climbing near the top of Black Powder Pass

It was all a matter of mountainperspective.

 Mount Borah

Tuna Surprise, was a very nice way to describe it. We were positioned on the lower slopes of Idaho’s highest peak, 12,662’ Mt. Borah, ready to do a night ascent. Doing it at night would be a good way to make an otherwise arduous and steep summit climb less mentally difficult, I reasoned. We were able to drive right up to our embarking point, so had the relative luxury of being able to carry whatever sort of bulky, non-trail food we wanted, along with a large propane burner. The plan was to have a good, filling and early supper, followed by a few hours of sleep and then a projected five or six hour long ascent, beginning at midnight.

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Storm in the Wind River Range

Adventurers weather a violent storm near the Continental Divide in the Wind River Range.

A glacier camp on the Ruth Glacier in Alaska.
The Ruth Glacier, Alaska

It’d been a long day, but by midafternoon, we were finally up on the top of the Wind River Range. The Continental Divide never failed to intrigue me, as I invariably ended up trying to envision how when it rained, the water would run down from the highest point, ultimately going to either the Pacific or the Atlantic. I would sometimes stand up on a high point and let the rain drip from my body and visualize how it was already on its way and would sooner or later end up in an ocean. This time, not surprisingly, my thoughts were the same. Continue reading “Storm in the Wind River Range”

Hamburgers and Lizard Head

A group of backpackers attempts to climb Lizard Head and learns the true meaning of climbing.

Pingora, Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Lizard Head is a big peak just to the north and east of the well-known, long and breathtakingly majestic line of mountains, ridges and spires in the Wind River Range, known as the Cirque of the Towers. On one particular trip, we backpacked with two groups of 7, via different routes both coming in from the east, into Bear Lake. The lake sits just on the east side of Lizard Head and would be the location for our backcountry base camp.  Once there, we set up two close, but separate camps between the lake and mountain with the plan to use them as a base from which to explore the area. Since it was during the Fourth of July holiday, we knew that there’d be a lot of people in the general area, but that few, if any, would venture into that, more out of the way, neck of the woods. Our plans included a non-technical ascent of Lizard Head, fishing in area streams and lakes as well as a special Fourth of July supper, which was to include freeze-dried hamburger patties- a cutting-edge item back in the 80’s. Continue reading “Hamburgers and Lizard Head”